Air Force wants human-machine teams for ISR analysis

AFRL’s Human Analyst Augmentation branch is looking for human-centric technologies to improve analysis of sensor data.

Technological improvements in data gathering might seem to make an analyst’s job easier, but sometimes it is the opposite—true signals are increasingly hidden among more and more noise.

To deal with this novel problem, the Air Force has issued a presolicitation for innovated research concepts for Human-Machine Teaming for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Analysis. The goal is to advance the mission of the Air Force Research Lab’s Human Analyst Augmentation Branch, which seeks to develop, evaluate, test and transition integrated human-centric technology solutions for the community.

Current research is too focused on systems-centric solutions and does not adequately address human issues, the Air Force said.

Most of the research being conducted has improved data fusion and analysis of ISR data, but fails to take into account the human factor. The focus of the solicitation is to produce meaningful research that would improve human performance in processing, exploiting, analyzing, producing and disseminating ISR information by creating a more efficient human-machine team.

Possible research would include improving analysts’ capabilities through the application of a cognitive systems engineering design cycle. For instance, future improvements could make sure that technological solutions would perform as needed for ISR analysts by integrating technical functions with human cognitive processes, thus making that cognitive work more reliable.

“Achieving these goals requires several rapid iterations of in-depth knowledge elicitation from real-world operators, identifying barriers to work, rapid-prototyping of solutions to address those challenges, and evaluation of those solutions with operators,” the Air Force said. “Ultimately, this effort will develop an understanding of what it takes for an integrated human machine intelligence analysis team to navigate and understand vast quantities of intelligence data.”

The effort consists of three technical objectives:

ISR Knowledge Elicitation to gain knowledge from the ISR community to improve the planning and direction, collection, processing & exploitation, analysis & production, and dissemination process.

ISR Concept, Design and Development to build human-centric tools to enhance intelligence analysis and predictive assessment by addressing human and system challenges.

ISR Performance Assessment to provide a realistic analyst environment with subjective and objective measures to test potential capability improvements before acquisition.

The Air Force plans to release a broad agency announcement in August or September. An industry day is being planned for mid-September. The total estimated contract value is $42.5 million.